Portugal - updated on Thursday 20th October
Our time at Senhora Da Hora is passing very quickly, and we can’t believe the fourth week is almost up! We feel quite at home in this little community now, and we realise that our time spent here has been very worthwhile for us. We have learned so much about the culture and its people, but of course we still have much to learn – including the Portuguese language!! We have been trying hard to use what little we know, and we have had many laughs – always at ourselves!
We feel very much out of our comfort zone when we take part in the youth activities, though we still want to be a part of it and see what is going on. It is encouraging that around 12-16 young people attend the Youth Club regularly. These lovely young people have great fun as well as listening attentively to the Christian message that James and Heather prepare and present creatively each week.
While attending the Youth Club last week we met Nancy, a seasoned worker with a European mission. She has been working in Portugal for the last thirty years. Nancy had brought a young girl along to the Pedras Vivas Youth Club. On talking to her she expressed great concern about the situation in Porto, and told me about a report she had read. In her prayer letter, which she later forwarded to me, she wrote: “In April the Portuguese Evangelical Alliance (AEP) brought out a report concerning the state of the Evangelical church in Portugal. It was sobering. Sadly there has not been any significant change in the number of Portuguese believers over the last fifteen or more years.” Her passion is for the young people in Portugal. In her letter she continues “young people are leaving the church when they finish high school, so the congregations are aging and lack young people. There are active Christian university groups and some churches have a dynamic youth group, but only a small percentage of believing young people have this support in their adolescent years.”
This Friday evening we are having a ‘Baking night’ for women. Scones, apple crumble, pavlova and chocolate truffles will be on the menu! Please remember the women who will come along, that they might have good fun and hear about God’s love for them. Luisa, the lady from the bakery who we mentioned in last week’s letter, took an invite from Christine, so please pray that, even if she doesn’t come to this event, it will open up a conversation with her about the church plant and what it means to be a Christian. Pray for Alana, Laura and Christine as they share what their faith means to them on Friday evening.
COMUNIDADE PEDRAS VIVAS
Sunday was another good day in the Comunidade Pedras Vivas. James continued his theme on the church with an address from 1 Cor 4 vs 12-31, looking at how we are all parts of the church body, with different gifts and roles. This sums it up fairly well:
Don't go to church - be the church!
It was great to be able to join with the Portuguese in the singing of ’10,000 Reasons’. Out of the 27 people at church, around 11 of them were under the age of 21! That is so encouraging!
English class is always great fun. This week Robert and I were teaching a part of the lesson called ‘Odd One Out’. (Robert hinted that maybe we were the odd ones!) For the final part of the lesson we divided the class and they had to spot the odd one out in groups of four words. Here are the final four: Bought, Cooked, Flew, Saw – do you know the answer? It was quite embarrassing when a Portuguese lady knew the answer and the Northern Irish didn’t! After that, Robert was in the advanced class taking part in the debate “It is never acceptable to take another person’s life, whatever crime they have committed”.
THE CHURCH IN PORTUGAL
On Thursday James and Robert attended the Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Portugal, where the total number of ministers in the whole denomination is just seven - most around Lisbon and two in this area. They are faced with great challenges with very limited resources. They specifically asked that we support them with prayer. Please pray for these small congregations and the future of their work.
Meantime, back to Nancy’s quotation from the report:
“The AEP states that some of the reasons for the lack of church growth are: 1) believers do not reach out to their unsaved friends 2) since 1990 society has become very secularized 3) the Evangelical church is fairly invisible in Portuguese society, nobody knows what it is, does or believes 4) the church is like an institution, spending most of its energy on the Sunday service. In addition the report says that many new churches are more Brazilian immigrant churches, than actual churches penetrating into the Portuguese secular culture.” Apparently only 0.32% of the country are evangelical Christians.
As you can see, much prayer is needed so please remember all of the above and in particular -
Pray for James, Heather, Alana and Lucy. They work hard and need encouragement.
Pray for the young people attached to the church here – it is just great to see them come along and we want to encourage them.
Pray for Luisa, the lady from the bakery, who Christine has been getting to know.
Pray for the English classes, that through the fun many would be brought into the church.
THANK GOD that we are part of this team with James, Heather and Laura.
THANK YOU so much for your continued prayer – it means so much!
Colossians 4 vs 2-6